Children, Youth and Parents

Physical Literacy in Children and Youth (0-17)

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What is physical literacy and why does my child need it?

Physical Literacy is a framework healthcare providers, recreation leaders, teachers, educators, coaches, researchers and families are using to help give their children and youth the skills, motivation and confidence to be lead healthier lives by being active for life. Before children can play sports and participate in physical activities outside of school or on their own they need to learn HOW to move (the skills associated with movement), WHEN to move (the motivation to be active for at least 60min every day), and WHY to move (to be healthy and happy and connected to their community and friends). Just like a child needs to learn the ABCs before they can read, children need to learn the FUNdamental Movement Skills (RUN HOP THROW etc) before they can be active for life. The way children are moving and the environment activity is taking place in has changed DRASTICALLY between generations. Children are sitting more than any past generation of children, and it has a serious effect on their overall wellness and health.  The Northumberland Sports Council is dedicated to bringing more knowledge, urgency, and trained individuals to our community with the ultimate goal of creating more opportunities for children and youth in Northumberland to gain quality physical literacy skills that will help keep them active for life.

Click this link to watch a short video on Physical Literacy 

Physical Literacy – Long Term Athlete Development

Physical literacy is all about getting kids moving in an appropriate environment that fosters inclusion, the opportunity for successes and failures, and to get to know and play with their peers! The Long Term Athlete Development Plan is a document that was created through the lens of physical literacy.

  •  Becoming physically literate is influenced by the individual’s age, maturation, and capacity.
  •  Ideally, supporting the development of physical literacy should be a major focus prior to the adolescent growth spurt.
  • The skills that make up physical literacy vary by location and culture and depend on how much importance a society places on certain activities.

The Long Term Athlete Development Plan is a document that outlines what a child should be doing at a specific age and stage.  Science, research, and decades of experience all point to the same thing: kids and adults will get active, stay active, and even reach the greatest heights of sports achievement if they do the right things at the right times! The different stages include:

  • Awareness and First Involvement:  Awareness promotes an understanding of opportunities to get involved in sport and physical activity. It highlights opportunities for persons of all abilities to participate in sport, become an athlete, and go as far as their ability and motivation will take them!
  • Active Start (0-6):  From 0-6 years, boys and girls need to be engaged in daily active play. Through play and movement, they develop the fundamental movement skills and learn how to link them together. At this stage developmentally appropriate activities will help participants feel competent and comfortable participating in a variety of fun and challenging activities and games.
  • FUNdamentals:  In the FUNdamentals stage, participants develop fundamental movement skills in structured and unstructured environments for play.  The focus is on providing fun, inclusive, multisport, and developmentally appropriate sport and physical activity. These experiences will result in the participant developing a wide range of movement skill along with the confidence and desire to participate.
  • Learn to Train:  Once a wide range of fundamental movement skills has been acquired, participants progress into the Learn to Train stage leading to understanding basic rules, tactics, and strategy in games and refinement of sport-specific skills. There are opportunities to participate in multiple sports with competitions focused on skill development and retention.  Games and activities are inclusive, fun, and skill based. At the end of the Learn to Train stage, participants grow (or progress) towards sports excellence in the Train to Train stage or being Active for Life, either by being Competitive for Life or Fit for Life.
  • Train to Train:  Athletes enter the Train to Train stage when they have developed proficiency in the athlete development performance components (physical, technical-tactical, mental, and emotional). Rapid physical growth, the development of sporting capability, and commitment occurs in this stage. Athletes will generally specialize in one sport towards the end of the stage.  A progression from local to provincial competition occurs over the course of the stage.
  • Train to Compete:  Athletes enter the Train to Compete stage when they are proficient in sport-specific Train to Train athlete development components (physical, technical-tactical, mental, and emotional). Athletes are training nearly full-time and competing at the national level while being introduced to international competition.
  • Train to Win:  Athletes in the Train to Win stage are world class competitors who are competing at the highest level of competition in the world (e.g. Olympics, Paralympics, World Championships, World Cups or top professional leagues). These athletes have highly personalized training and competition plans and have an Integrated Support Team of physical therapists, athletic therapists, and sport psychologists providing ongoing support.
  • Active for Life:  Individuals who have a desire to be physically active are in the Active for Life stage. A participant may choose to be Competitive for Life or Fit for Life and, if inclined, give back as a sport or physical activity leader. Competitive for Life includes those who compete in any organized sport recreation leagues to Master Games. Fit for Life includes active people who participate in non-competitive physical activity.
Sport for Life Society. Long-Term Athlete Development Framework. Retrieved from

Resources to further your learning on physical literacy and Long Term Athlete Development Plan:

FUNdamental Movement Skills

Learn to move with the FUNdamental Movement Skills.  Children and youth need to be taught HOW to move with individually specific progressions built into all activities. Learning the FUNdamental Movement Skills is essential for enabling children to be active for life!

It is important to note that FUNdamental Movement Skills can be learned at ANY age! Physical Literacy tries to instill the curiosity and motivation to learn new movements at any age or stage of life!

Important FUNdamental Movement Skills:    Run • Hop • Skip • Jump • Throw • Kick • Balance • Catch • Strike • Coordination • Agility

Resources to further your learning  on FUNdamental Movement Skills

24-Hours Movement Guideline

Children and youth should practice healthy sleep hygiene (habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well), limit sedentary behaviours (especially screen time), and participate in a range of physical activities in a variety of environments (e.g., home/school/community; indoors/outdoors; land/water; summer/winter) and contexts (e.g., play, recreation, sport, active transportation, hobbies, and chores).

Infants (0-1 years old)

Move: 30min+ of tummy time spread out throughout the day. More if better!

Sleep: 14-17 hours (0-3 months) and 12-16 hours (4-11 months) of good quality sleep (including nap time)

Sit: Try not to restrain your baby for more than 1 hour at a time (in a stroller or high chair) and screen time is not recommended. When sedentary use this time to read stories and play interactively when possible!

Toddlers (1-2 years old)

Move: 180 min + doing as many different activities as possible spread throughout the day. More is better!

Sleep: 11-14 hours of good quality sleep including naps with consistent bedtimes and wake up times.

Sit: Try not to restrain your toddler for more than 1 hour at a time (in a stroller or high chair) and screen time is not recommended if 1 years old. 1 hour of screen time (or less) is toddler is 2 years old. When sedentary use this time to read stories and play interactively when possible!

Pre-Schoolers  (3-4 years old)

Move: 180 min + doing as many different activities as possible spread throughout the day. 60min should be energetic play (sweating and breathing heavily) More is better!

Sleep: 10-13 hours of good quality sleep which may include naps with consistent bedtimes and wake up times.

Sit: Try not to restrain your preschooler for more than 1 hour at a time (in a stroller or car seat). 1 hour of screen time (or less).

Children and Youth (5-17 years old) 

Sweat: 1 hour of medium to hard (sweating and breathing heavily) physical activity EVERY DAY!

Step: 2-3hours (or more) of light to medium ( walking, playing in a sandbox, gardening) physical activity EVERY DAY!

Sleep: 8-11hours of sleep is required EVERY NIGHT! Electronics should be shut down at least 1hr prior to going to bed.

Sit: No more than 2 hours of sedentary recreational screen  EVERY DAY! Limit sitting for extended periods of time.

Resources to further your learning about the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines:

Physical Literacy and Brain Health/ Mental Wellness

Canadian kids need active bodies to build their best brains. All kids deserve to thrive in mind and body. But in order for them to reach their full mental, emotional and intellectual potential, their bodies have to move to get the wheels in their brains turning.

-(ParticipACTION, 2018)

Researchers, doctors, and recreational advocates are beginning to understand how truly essential physical activity is in childhood for a healthy brain. Regular physical activity (60min of heart pumping, sweaty play and LOTS of hours of milder active play) leads to improved:

  • Thinking and learning
  • Emotional regulation and self-control
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Memory
  • Brain plasticity – the growth of new brain tissue
  • Stress management
  • Ability to cope with anxiety and depressive symptoms
  • Self-esteem and self-worth
  • Attention and focus

Canadian kids are sitting too much and moving too little to reach their full potential.

Resources on the relationship between brain health and physical activity:

The Gender Divide

If a girl hasn’t participated in sports by the age of 10, there is only a 10% chance that she will be physically active as an adult. Only 16% of adult women report sport participation.

The difference in physical activity behaviours between boys and girls starts as young as 6 years old. This difference only increases as children grow older.

Physical literacy is a theory we can use in practical experiences to ensure our girls and women stay active and healthy for life.

-Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, 2018

Resources on the gender divide in sport and physical activity: